Map in the Mind
In Memoriam: Edith Schaeffer, 1914-2013

The Good Offensive

That sounds more like a sermon title, and I know better than to preach.  I can simply tell what I see.  Trees budding.  Robins eating from my bird feeder, a gray squirrel gleaning the castoffs.  Chickadees stealing the bluebird house, early tenants.  Grass stirring from winter slumber.  Air wafting into my study hinting of warmer climes, a down payment on Spring.  From my window on Creation, good seems on the move.

 "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good," says Peter.  That, however, is a long war, and my contribution pitiable.

I have a long rap sheet.  In some way or another, I have broken every commandment.  Both tablets.  I have explanations, rationalizations, and defenses, but in the end my fingerprints are all over.  I am a repeat offender.  And there are witnesses to my crimes.  And yet even in me good is on the move.  I am arrested and booked by love, and there is One beyond me who inhabits my smallish efforts, my "working out of salvation."

 You can look at the world and see absence, or you can look at it and see presence.  I see presence, and that is grace.  And yet evil --- whether the vapidity of what passes for entertainment or the offense that marches through the statistics we read in the newspaper --- sometimes makes me hover over absence, pausing to complain, like grizzled Habakkuk, who cries out "Violence! and you will not save?," who wags his finger at God and says "Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong?"  By His grace, not by me, I move on.  I see presence.

My mother always told me to "be good."  I can't be good.  I belong to the cult of me.  My good is undercut by the desperate hope that someone will catch me in the act.  Filthy rags is what I have.  But when I consider me, when I contrast the feebleness of me with the all-sufficiency of Him, I have to smile.  Oswald Chambers calls it "divine hilarity," Frederick Buechner calls it the "comedy of grace."  I have a permanent inner smile, and my failings only broaden that smile.

The other day I took my first ride with my teenage daughter at the wheel.  I had warned her that I was prone to being nervous, as I had never ridden with her driving, and could be impatient.  Still, she wanted to drive.  When we screeched to a halt in our driveway, I turned to her and said, "Did I do OK?"  She said, "Yeah, you did OK, Dad."  That's grace.  Salvation.  Working it out with fear and trembling.  Divine hilarity.  God working in me for his good pleasure.

When I'm nearly overcome by evil, I hold in my mind that image from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  The seemingly eternal winter world of Narnia is about to recede, and yet evil still is ever-present.  "Aslan is on the move," the Beaver says.  And then Lewis says this:

And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don’t understand but in the dream it feels as if it had some enormous meaning—either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in his inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realise that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer. 

And then there is faithful Sam at the end of the Lord of the Rings, looking up from his bed at the towering figure of Gandalf smiling over him, saying, "Is everything sad going to come untrue?  What’s happening to the world?”  What's happening?  Wheat and tares growing up side by side, that's what.  Evil flourishing in the midst of good, for a season.  But it won't always be.

Aslan is on the move.  The last move. The last battle.  The end of the last war.

"You did OK, Dad."  Thank God.

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